Some GPS Technology

GPS InsightWhat is the state of the art in GPS tracking these days?  Here’s a good example in the form of products and services offered by a company called CPS Insight.  Their primary customers are trucking and service companies such as roofing, construction, plumbing.  Pretty much any company that has an on the road sales force or service personnel, delivery vehicles, over the road trucking and so on.

The idea is that this tool gives companies the ability to monitor a wide range of things from fuel consumption and speed violations to preventing unauthorized after hours use of company vehicles and an engine maintenance report that can automatically notify someone by email when a vehicle reports a diagnostic trouble code.

Trucking and delivery companies of all kinds use services like this to keep track of where they are and when, help with routing information and more.  GPS Insight offers their service for a mere $1.50 to $2.00 per day for each vehicle tracked.  The hardware involved is easy to install because it plugs directly into the vehicles diagnostics port which makes it possible for them to get engine diagnostic information like fault codes, speed, fuel consumption, odometer readings and more.  Part of the reasons that companies use technology like this is because of the money they can save due to more efficient routing, fuel savings, and of course, not having to pay someone when they’re not really working.

GPS MapThe GPS Insight product gets data updates every 2 minutes and they’ve got a very detailed map option and allows high level zoom and very detailed satellite and hybrid map displays.  Map details can be customized to suit the customers individual needs.  This includes not only zooming and overlaying satellite images on a map but also some really impressive looking 3-d mapping technology.

The hardware part of this system is actually only a little less than half of the whole thing.  The rest of it involves GPS satellites, data being collected from each vehicles tracking system and then uploaded by cellphone to the GPS Insight computers where it’s processed and made available in the form of maps and a wide range of reports.  Their website not only contains product and sales related information, but there is also a very impressive interactive demo, a movie and a slide show that demonstrates some of their system’s capabilities.  They also have a GPS Tracking blog that talks about a lot of GPS tracking related issues and technology.

Texas Hospital Wants Blogger’s Identity

A hospital in Paris, Texas has filed a defamation suit against an anonymous blogger that has been writing very critical postings about the hospital and their practices.  This is testing the limits of freedom of speech and the rights of whistle-blowers that are trying to expose some wrong doing.

This thing is already going the wrong direction because a district judge already plans to order a Dallas ISP to reveal the blogger’s identity.  Naturally the blogger’s lawyer is appealing to preserve his anonymity and ability to speak without fear of retaliation.

This kind of lawsuit and the fact that sooner or later it’s possible that some judge is going to cave and establish a nasty precedent that allows anyone to file a suit claiming defamation and demand an identity.  Which can then allow the blogger to be dealt retribution in as many forms as you can imagine.

This is why it is very important to be extremely careful when blogging anonymously.  You need to make certain that there are no links back to you in email, your IP address appearing in the logs of every web site you visit and so on.

It can take a little bit of work and the learning curve is a bit steep, which means that only those who are genuinely serious will pursue truly anonymous, untraceable blogging.  But it CAN be done and I’m going to cover some of the details in upcoming posts.

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Self Destructing Messages

I recently ran across several mentions of services that are offering the ability to send emails that self destruct after they’re read.

The way it works is you use a provider’s service to send your message.  The recipient gets an email telling them that they have an email from you and a url where they can read it.  When they read the message it gets deleted from the server and cannot be read again.

I think there’s problems with this kind of messaging though.  First off, When I get a message telling me to visit a website to get the message I treat it as spam unless it’s a notification from a forum that I’m a member of.  Second off, the message might be self destructing, but if I know that’s what I’m picking up, I’m going to take a screenshot and hit “view source” on my browser the second the page is done loading so that I’ll have a copy of it anyway.

I think that it’s better all the way around to use a few simple rules when sending messages.

Remember that standard email is sent in plain text, un-encrypted and can be read by any number of people with very little trouble at all.  Just because you sent it to one person, does not mean it won’t show up on a dozen blogs next week or be forwarded to a few hundred people.

If you don’t want it to be read by just anyone, the the recipient’s PGP public key and encrypt it to that key.  If they don’t have PGP (or GnuPG which is 100% free) then encourage them to get it.

Even if you sent a message encrypted, remember that the person who received it could still spread it around (accidentally or deliberately).

Never say anything in an email that you wouldn’t want the world to know unless you REALLY trust the recipient and then use GPG / PGP to encrypt it and keep it away from third parties.

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EasyCGI offering free web hosting

What’s one of the most important things when building ANY kind of website?  Web hosting of course. What makes it better is when you get a shot to get free web hosting on quality servers.  EasyCGI is offering just that.  When you sign up for on of their Windows based web hosting packages you can get free web hosting for a year.

I spent some time looking over the site and they’re offering some pretty good hosting packages.  The “Advanced” package gives you 350 gigabytes of storage on the server, 3,500 gigabytes of data transfer per month, 500 email accounts, a Shared 128 bit SSL Certificate with the ability to have a private SSL certificate.

In addition to the 99.9% Uptime Guarantee and 24/7 Phone Support this package includes ASP.NET 2.0, PHP, Perl, Frontpage extensions.  You get the ability to set up popular scripts like OSCommerce, phpBB Forum, DotNetNuke and more in a single install step.  Of course there’s the usual statistics and Web Traffic Reports as well.  They offer tutorials and a knowledge base to help make setup as painless as possible.

The “Advanced X2” and “Advanced X4” packages have all that and more.  One of the coolest things about this is their offer of free web hosting.  If you’re looking for a web host, it’s certainly worthwhile to check out EasyCGI.  They have same day setup and they’re not socking it to you by charging outrageous setup fees because they’re not charging a setup fee.

For people who’re not experienced in creating websites, they’ve also got a site builder tool that simplifies a lot of the work involved in building a website that works.

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No Privacy For The Poor

I ran across this story in the NYTimes “Todays Headlines” email that I’m subscribed to and of course I wanted to read the rest of it.  Unfortunately, because this is a “Times Select” piece, there is no getting to it on NYTimes’ site without paying for this “Times Select” thingy… Which I’m not interested in doing.  So be warned, unless you’re interested in paying the NY Times, this link is worthless to you.

(Not only that, but because this link is essentially worthless and because I’m just that aggravated, NYTimes links that I post on here will, for the forseeable future, have rel=”nofollow” on them… they’re getting no link juice from me.)

Full Constitutional Protection for Some

Poor people in San Diego who want public benefits must give up their privacy, writes
Adam Liptak.

On the other hand, after I spent some time googling around, I did find a blog that quoted the story so you can read it here in “If You’re Poor You Have No Rights, Not Even To Privacy

The part that *should* get under everybody’s skin is this:

In San Diego, poor people who want public benefits must give up their privacy. Investigators from the district attorney’s office there make unannounced visits to the homes of people applying for welfare, poking around in garbage cans, medicine chests and laundry baskets.

Applicants are not required to let the investigators in. But they get no money if they refuse.

Lawyers who have sued on behalf of the applicants say that being poor should not mean having to give up the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable government searches. So far, the courts have disagreed, saying that rooting out welfare fraud justifies the searches, but not without drawing some fierce dissents.

Basically it’s the same old story that’s getting played out more and more these days… If you don’t have money then you are guaranteed to get the short end of the stick.  I know, boatloads of people will trot out the “Preventing welfare fraud” excuse, but that just doesn’t cut it here.  Preventing fraud is one thing, this kind of unreasonable “give me what I want or you don’t get anything” approach is unwarranted… as are the searches that these goons are performing.

Whatever happend to the Forth Amendment?  Where are the court orders and search warrants?  Where is the probable cause?

In case some have forgotten, the constitution DOES guarantee us protection against unreasonable search and siesure.  It also requires probable cause be shown and a warrant issued by a judge that specifies what is being searched and what is being searched for.  These judges that have gone along with this are just plain flat out wrong.

It is perhaps poetic justice of a sort that this post is sponsored by www.k9cuisine.com, a supplier of Organic dog food.  They’ve got a whole line of natural dog foods and treats that are free of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

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